Thoracic Strain

You have injured the muscles or tendons that attach to the upper part of your back behind your chest. This injury is called a thoracic strain, thoracic sprain, or mid-back strain.

CAUSES

The cause of thoracic strain varies. A less severe injury involves pulling a muscle or tendon without tearing it. A more severe injury involves tearing (rupturing) a muscle or tendon. With less severe injuries, there may be little loss of strength. Sometimes, there are breaks (fractures) in the bones to which the muscles are attached. These fractures are rare, unless there was a direct hit (trauma) or you have weak bones due to osteoporosis or age. Longstanding strains may be caused by overuse or improper form during certain movements. Obesity can also increase your risk for back injuries. Sudden strains may occur due to injury or not warming up properly before exercise. Often, there is no obvious cause for a thoracic strain.

SYMPTOMS

The main symptom is pain, especially with movement, such as during exercise.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver can usually tell what is wrong by taking an X-ray and doing a physical exam.

TREATMENT

  • Physical therapy may be helpful for recovery. Your caregiver can give you exercises to do or refer you to a physical therapist after your pain improves.

  • After your pain improves, strengthening and conditioning programs appropriate for your sport or occupation may be helpful.

  • Always warm up before physical activities or athletics. Stretching after physical activity may also help.

  • Certain over-the-counter medicines may also help. Ask your caregiver if there are medicines that would help you.

If this is your first thoracic strain injury, proper care and proper healing time before starting activities should prevent long-term problems. Torn ligaments and tendons require as long to heal as broken bones. Average healing times may be only 1 week for a mild strain. For torn muscles and tendons, healing time may be up to 6 weeks to 2 months.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Apply ice to the injured area. Ice massages may also be used as directed.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day, for the first 2 days.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Keep your appointments for physical therapy if this was prescribed.

  • Use wraps and back braces as instructed.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have an increase in bruising, swelling, or pain.

  • Your pain has not improved with medicines.

  • You develop new shortness of breath, chest pain, or fever.

  • Problems seem to be getting worse rather than better.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.